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What to do about lorries?
24.09.08 by Buffalo Bill

Well, I don’t want to pre-judge any of the 3 collisions that happened in the past week, for a start. It’s too easy to say, based on hearsay evidence, that one or the other party was to blame. But given that all but one of the 9 cyclists that have been killed in London so far this year have been killed by lorries1, what I said last year, after the prosecution of the driver that killed Emma Foa, still holds good.

Personally, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a lorry, if I could possibly avoid it. Of course, with the number of lorries on the road in London, to follow this advice would mean staying off the road altogether. So I take my chances on the road.

I think it is possible to minimise, if not eliminate, the risk of conflict with a lorry. To do this, you need first of all to be aware of where they are, which means keeping an eye, or two if possible, on the road behind you.

Second, having located them on the road, you need avoid crossing their path, or potential path. This means staying behind the rear axle when they are moving, if you are behind them, and keeping an eye on them when they are behind you, to make sure that if they over-take that they are giving you enough room.

The place you definitely don’t want to be is alongside, or slightly in front of, their front wheels at any time but especially at junctions. This is because lorry drivers who have killed cyclists by left-turns (making up more than a quarter of all cyclists killed in London in the last 6 years), even if they signal, often fail to look in their left-hand mirrors to check for cyclists.

However, all this information is stuff that I have picked up in 15 years of reporting on cyclists who have been killed by collisions with lorries in London and other cities. I think I have reported directly on around 20 deaths, and at least another 2 were personally known to me. The average cyclist will trust, as Emma Foa did, in the advice to wear hi-visibility jackets and helmets, and to use the bike lanes.

Because I believe that the current policy of making marked and seperate lanes is so dangerous2, and that more could and should be done by the Mayor, I have written the following letter to him.

Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
City Hall  
LONDON  SE1 2AA

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Dear Mr Johnson,

As Chair of the London Bicycle Messenger Association (2003 – 2005), I launched a campaign to reduce the threat from HGV/LGV/lorries to London’s cycle couriers and cyclists. All 8 of the London bicycle messengers known to have died whilst working were killed by collisions with lorries. As I am sure you are aware, 2 London cyclists were killed as the result of collisions with lorries in the last week, and another was seriously injured. Unofficial figures collected by the London Cycling Campaign suggest that 10 cyclists have died so far this year in London as the result of collisions with lorries.

As editor of Moving Target, a magazine and web-site for cycle couriers and other urban cyclists, it has been my unfortunate duty to report on a number of these deaths, and in some cases meet the families and friends that were left behind. It is my view that not only are these deaths tragic, but that they are wholly avoidable.

As you may or may not be aware, a London Road Safety Unit study of London cyclist fatalities 1999 – 2002 concluded that of the 49 collisions with lorries, more than half were the result of a left turn by the lorry.

I therefore urge you to re-examine the basis of the London Cycle Network, because it is my belief that, by painting pictures of bicycles and white lines up the left-hand side of the road, Transport for London is encouraging cyclists to believe that the left-hand side of the road is where they belong, and that they will be safe there. In view of the results of the study mentioned above, this is most definitely not the case.

Also, given that to the left and front of lorry is very difficult location for a driver to see into, even with the new ‘blind-spot’ mirror, the provision of Advanced Stop Lines, with feeder lanes from the left, at junctions seems to me to be very dangerous practice. I wonder if you knew that at two spots where cyclists were recently killed by a left-turning lorries, Upper Thames Street junction with Queen Street Place, and Camley Street junction with Goods Way, there are two such ASLs, both with feeder lanes from the left. Surely this is something that needs looking at again?

I would also urge you to contact the Department for Transport and demand that they hasten the implementation of the European legislation that will make the fitting of ‘blind-spot’ mirrors compulsory for lorries. It seems that there are concerns that the DfT is dragging its feet, and that necessary arrangements have not yet been made.

As Mayor of London, you will no doubt be aware that there will be a massive amount of construction, with the associated huge increase in lorry traffic, taking place as part of the London Olympics project. Perhaps you can bring some pressure to bear on the operators with respect to this hazard, and encourage them to do more to eliminate it.

yours sincerely

Bill Chidley
Editor, Moving Target

You can download a PDF or doc without my name on it, print and send to Boris yourselves. I strongly urge you to do so. If enough people write in, who knows what might happen? I also also urge all of my readers to download the LCC letter regarding ‘blind-spot’ mirrors, print it and send that as well.

1 Unofficial figures collected by Charlie Lloyd at the London Cycling Campaign.

2 See this article in the Guardian for more.

  1. That’s spot on Bill well done. Will Boris even receive this i don’t know? Could a group critical mass with couriers and anyone else who is interested be a good idea? A ride through central london after 6 on a friday stopping traffic with the message you have just aired?


    — Zack Speedfast    24 September 2008, 21:46    #
  2. Zack; I know you take the piss out of them, and partly they deserve it, but the LFGSS has been discussing this all day and when it comes to this I think we all need to stick together and the more of us who speak up the better. I’m a courier, I’m a cyclist, when it comes to trying to stay alive there’s no difference. I’m sure Bill will publicise any actions relating to HGVs that are organised and if not I will do so.


    — will    24 September 2008, 22:29    #
  3. There is a critical mass this friday


    — breaking away    24 September 2008, 22:43    #
  4. Superb letter.

    I think some outreach to fellow cyclists, either in person or by putting information leaflets, drawing on Bill’s advice, on parked bikes would be a good plan. I’d certainly volunteer my time to help get the message out that staying on the left, going up and inside HGVs etc etc is a BAD IDEA, even if the road is painted green.

    Maybe this kind of education is something that TfL would support financially. They’re big into cycle training but over the past 2 years I’ve seen a big decline in the average road sense of London cyclists. I think could be due to more numbers, more inexperienced cyclists, which is of course fantastic for all of us but they are in many cases I’ve witnessed, running crazy risks, usually without even knowing it.

    We can get as angry as we like about negligent drivers and lack of mirrors, and this will change, but it’s going to be a slow process. Helping cyclists make better assessments of their own risk-taking is going have much faster results. That’s not in any way to take the blame, only to do what must be done in what I feel is becoming a really heavy situation.

    To that end, cyclist-to-cyclist communication is going to be much more effective than anything the government can do way of raising awareness.


    jack    24 September 2008, 22:48    #
  5. Perhaps london cyclists do need to get more active and political in terms of protest.That cvnt Boris talks crap about being cycling friendly and does the opposite-he needs to know that the public won’t buy his bullshit.


    — breaking away    24 September 2008, 22:52    #
  6. NO MORE LORRIES IN CENTRAL LONDON!

    THERE ISN’T ENOUGH SPACE!

    Pasted from the previous:

    Its outrageous, everyone knows how dangerous is a bloody HGV in Central London but business is worth more then life. A wile ago Bill trying to get a ban was like a mute screaming for help.
    Only when the cost to send an HGV in town will be greater than the income produced they will make them go round and send in smaller vehicles.
    For the time beeing they prefer to keep killing cyclists and then blame them for jumping red lights!
    This is pure violence and it begs to be fought back.

    Think windscreen…
    Think London Bricks…
    Think how much it cost…
    Think you can’t drive it without it…

    Every time a lorry invades Central London a life deserves to be saved…stop it!


    — Bicyclerepairman    25 September 2008, 00:51    #
  7. Today I was cut up on the inside by a bus again.I went to ask the driver why the f*ck they did it and I could nt believe my ears.The idiot said I was trying to race the bus and it was my own fault!
    That’s what we re dealing with.F*cking morons and the roads are full of them.You cannot campaign against that.


    — overdrive    25 September 2008, 11:39    #
  8. You will not get Lorries out of London, and it’s a little naive to think you can.
    Who will supply the tarmac to repair the potholes you cycle past, deliver the inner tubes to the bike shops, timber for the new velodrome, beer for the pubs?

    It’s a big city we have to work on living together.

    That is: – DoT and TFL to change the law forcing increased visibility and clearer warnings on HGV

    - Increased awareness of the risks poised by Lorries and improved safety awareness to London’s cyclists

    - Improvement of the Cycle Networks to reflect the above risks

    The one we can impact the quickest is the second, a number of campaigns and some column inches for Boris to jump on and we have a starter for 10


    — Pip    25 September 2008, 12:04    #
  9. The same happened to me awile ago…those people should be forced to work as messengers for a year and then go back to drive buses and lorries…I bet they’ll have some respect then!


    — bicyclerepairman    25 September 2008, 12:05    #
  10. @Pip
    Big lorries beetween 10pm and 6am and smaller vehicles during the day. It might cause an increase of number of high capacity vans and medium size pick-up trucks but they’r lower, a cyclist’s head is at about the same height as the driver’s head. they have better visibility, smaller and less scary wheels and If they cut you off you can punch the side or shout loud and they will ear you. 20+ tons 8 wheelers and articulated to me equals madness in a narrow city as London…there are options and is not naive to think is possible…put it in a way wich shows advantages for business and whos in charge will think about it


    — bicyclerepairman    25 September 2008, 12:25    #
  11. I agree with Jack, communication with other cyclists is probably the best action. HGV’s are dangerous but with knowledge about how to approach, pass or be passed, the danger is less severe. Using the media via a critical mass would get the message out as well as other tactics Jack mentioned. I don’t think road/town planners have much idea about how to design a safe cycle lane. Has anyone seen the TFL ad where the white bikes sprayed on the road come to life? It shows how out of touch they are as these bikes look like ghost bikes riding around the city, a reminder of the dead left behind.


    — Zack Speedfast    25 September 2008, 12:51    #
  12. Bill, if you can pull together a text which explains why lorries are THE danger issue on London roads for cyclists (you’ve written it all before I know, in blog posts, forum posts…), I can lay it out & print it up in quantities for CM tomorrow, as a first step.

    Not that I’m a fan of CM but it is the biggest gathering of London cyclists.

    Important to make it timely, drawing on what’s been going on this year and giving a few simple messages for how to reduce risk.

    I would try to do it myself, but you’s got the wordz.


    jack    25 September 2008, 14:48    #
  13. OK, how about this, culled from recent posts:

    How to steer clear of lorries – and stay alive

    In the last week two London cyclists were killed as the result of collisions with lorries, and another was seriously injured. Unofficial figures collected by the London Cycling Campaign suggest that 10 cyclists have died so far this year in London as the result of collisions with lorries. A London Road Safety Unit study of London cyclist fatalities 1999 – 2002 concluded that of the 49 collisions with lorries, more than half were the result of a left turn by the lorry.

    It is possible to minimise, if not eliminate, the risk of conflict with a lorry. To do this, you need first of all to be aware of where they are, which means keeping an eye, or two if possible, on the road behind you. Second, having located them on the road, you need avoid crossing their path, or potential path. This means staying behind the rear axle when they are moving, if you are behind them, and keeping an eye on them when they are behind you, to make sure that if they over-take that they are giving you enough room.

    The place you definitely don’t want to be is alongside, or slightly in front of, their front wheels at any time, but especially at junctions. This is because lorry drivers who have killed cyclists by left-turns, even if they signal, often fail to look in their left-hand mirrors to check for cyclists. Cyclists that pass lorries and other long vehicles on the inside (left side) increases risk of not being seen.

    The design of many of London’s cycle lanes and advance stop lines (green boxes at traffic lights) lure cyclists into the most dangerous position at junctions: slightly in front of and to the left of lorries. At the two junctions where cyclists were recently killed by a left-turning lorries, Upper Thames Street junction with Queen Street Place, and Camley Street junction with Goods Way, there are advance stop lines, both with feeder cycle lanes from the left.

    Besides minimising your own risk on the road you can:

    [list of actions/lobbying/letter writing etc etc]


    jack    25 September 2008, 15:04    #
  14. Nice one Jack. I’ve cribbed this, added some relevant links and the (I think important) proviso that on the whole cycling isn’t that dangerous and emailed to the 150ish members of the BUG I run at work.


    — Grant    25 September 2008, 16:30    #
  15. Grant, you want to make sure that your lot write letters, as well as follow this advice.


    — Bill    25 September 2008, 17:38    #
  16. Can one get the name and address of killer drivers through court records? If so perhaps we should start paying them visits and persuading them that being seen driving in town again would be detrimental to their health.
    £300 fines are clearly not enough of a deterrence.


    — Gertie    25 September 2008, 20:16    #
  17. For sure Bill. One of our BUG was killed last year by a left turning HGV at a junction with a cycle lane and ASL so naturally this issue means a lot to us.


    — Grant    25 September 2008, 20:38    #
  18. Ban HGV’s from London? No one wonder so many cyclists are getting killed. You’re all brain dead. Yes, lets ban lorries from London. Brilliant idea. Genius. You should be Mayor.


    — TDF    26 September 2008, 10:26    #
  19. Hey TDF, you’re clearly not a cyclist, it means that you know nothing about cycling in London. Shallow sarcasm does no good to anyone, so, as you are totally ignorant about what is beeing discussed you either stay out or get on a bike and find out what actually means to be a cyclist. It might change your life forever…for the better!


    — bicyclerepairman    26 September 2008, 16:37    #
  20. Hey Bill, I lost a friend to a truck (lorry) here in Toronto a few years ago. The fiancee of a friend of mine actually, who was waiting at an intersection when a truck pulled up alongside her and, without stopping, turned, running over her and killing her instantly.
    What do we do in a case like that? What I do is break the law myself. I ring my bell like mad, then advance way out in front of the truck, out of his way so he can’t hit me. If he’s ready to turn then there is no oncoming traffic, so I’m safe. Failing that, riding up onto the sidewalk and circling backward a bit is also a course of action. Hey, man, anything that keeps you safe and alive is what you want to do.


    — Big Mike    28 September 2008, 04:03    #
  21. Bill

    Great post. Yet again you hit the nail on the head exactly, the inside of lorries is not the place to ever be. Cycle lanes that encourage that are just encouraging cyclists to go where lorries can’t see them.
    At least one lorry company is fitting semsors, like reversing alarms, to the front nearside of their lorries. Perhaps these should be compulsory in Central London


    — paul wood    7 October 2008, 17:58    #
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